Sunday, April 16, 2017

The Itsy-Bitsy Spider Has a Name, pero Solo en la Hispanidad

One fun thing about living abroad and meeting expats from all over the world is seeing how bits of culture make their way from place to place and the often unpredictable changes they undergo in the process.  I was speaking with some grad students from Bolivia and China, the latter explaining how, due to the difficulty most westerners have with pronouncing the different tonalities in Chinese names, she uses a transliterated version of her real name pronounced in Spanish or English, depending on who she's talking to.  (N.B.  This is actually a trend I've noticed among Chinese students here in Madrid, although many I've met have chosen a typical American/Spanish name rather than a direct transliteration of their real name.)  Her name, in Spanish, is pronounced "Huizi" (woo-EET-zee), which the Bolivian pointed out was just like the name of the spider from the kid's song she grew up with.

Witsi Witsi Araña trepó a la canaleta,
vino la lluvia y se la llevó.
Luego salió el sol, y la lluvia evaporó,
y Witsi Witsi Araña de nuevo subió.

"Witsi Witsi" seems to be the most popular version of the name, but there are variations ranging from "Huitzi Huitzi" to "Gusi Gusi."  Otherswise, the lyrics are pretty much identical to the English version of "The Itsy-Bitsy Spider," as is the melody.  Any suspicion that this might have been a local variation or the creation of a particular teacher evaporated when one of the student's friends arrived and recognized the song.  The friend was from Ecuador. (For those without maps handy, Ecuador and Bolivia aren't exactly neighbors.)

I haven't drawn any special insights from this.  I just think it's an interesting example of cultural transmission.

1 comment:

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